Where the is a will, there is a way. That is the kind of spirit we had when we thought of organising the first ever State of the Map Africa. We knew from the start, that it wasn’t going to be a very easy task, but the belief everyone had and the effort put in kept us going till the very end. It’s an effort that finally paid off, when we held the three days conference in Kampala, Uganda from the 8th - 10th of July 2017.

State of the Map Africa (photo by OSM Africa CC-BY-SA 3.0)

In total we had 40 planning meetings, happening every week online via Mumble an open source text/voice communication software. With ideas flowing in from all corners of Africa - West Africa, Southern Africa, Northern Africa and Central Africa, it was a good sign that we were to have a successful conference.

The first task at hand was to select the venue for the conference, the call for venues attracted four applications from Ivory Coast, Uganda, Madagascar which gave us a very good start. The Venue Selection Committee did its work giving the chance to Kampala, Uganda to host the first State of the Map Africa.

Distributing the planning into committees helped us divide up the tasks, in addition to the venue selection committee, we had the Fundraising Committee, the Scholarships Committee, the Programs Committee and Local Organising Committee. Every week, each committee had to meet and plan, then report back to the General Planning meeting to keep everyone on the same page.

This process continued till the last week before the conference. We were also grateful to have several people from the wider OpenStreetMap community and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team who had participated in organising State of the Map conferences before come in and give very valuable advice to us.

To make it a real African Conference, we had to ensure that we get as many people from different countries in Africa to participate. This was the main task of the Fundraising and the Scholarships committees, so when we talked to potential sponsors for the conference, we made it clear that this was our number one priority. And thanks to the generous support from Mapillary, GFDRR, Mapbox, HDX, JRC, HOT, Michelin and Youth Mappers this became a reality as we had people come in from 24 different African Countries, most of them on scholarships.

State of the Map Africa, African Participants

The next big objective was to make sure that the programme for the conference was valuable to the participants and in line with the theme, OpenStreetMap for Sustainable development in Africa. We had a wonderful program thanks to the programs committee that had a good mix of presentations. From those telling the success stories of OpenStreetMap in Africa, to technical ones demonstrating the full capabilities of OpenStreetMap in solving local problems to those demonstrating best practices.

OpenStreetMap communities in Africa are going through a revolution at the moment, and one thing you cannot miss is the rise of Youth Mappers Chapters in Africa. This was evident as we had a big presence of Youth Mappers at the conference, flying in from 8 different countries. Their session was one of the highlights of the conference, where students from 15 different Universities shared about their plans and activities around OpenStreetMap.

Youth Mappers Session at SotM Africa

Among the many practical sessions we also had an outdoor activity, a Mapillary Photo Walk. We used the opportunity to do a tour of the University but also mapping it on Mapillary in the process. We had 360o cameras as well smart phones capturing all the main roads through the University. You can see the output of the exercise here. At the end of the photo walk, we had a demonstration on how OpenStreetMap data can be improved with Mapillary.

Mapillary Photo Walk at State of the Map Africa

Makerere is one of the most prestigious Universities in Africa and we couldn’t ask for a better venue for the conference. OpenStreetMap in Africa has grown tremendously through collaborations with Universities which made it for us the obvious choice us. The Makerere University Sports ground, served as the venue for a football game between OSM Uganda Vs OSM Rest of the World Football match. The Rest of the World Team ended up winning the match 2: 0 and although I was on the losing side, I must say this was one of the best experiences for me. It was a first one, to have at an OpenStreetMap conference but which was worth it. The other social event of course was at the Wink Bar and Restaurant which ended up in a dance, giving us the rare opportunity of seeing how mappers dance.

OSM Rest of the World VS OSM Uganda football match

I will pen off by thanking the following people who played a very tremendous role in the planning of the conference

Alexandre Sige - OpenStreetMap Morocco Gertrude Namitala - OpenStreetMap Zambia Amadu Ndong - OpenStreetMap Togo David Luswata - OpenStreetMap Uganda Deogratias Kiggudde - OpenStreetMap Uganda Jess Butler - OpenStreetMap US Claire Halleux - OpenStreetMap Congo Natalie Sidibe - OpenStreetMap Mali Enock Seth Nyamador - OpenStreetMap Ghana Innocent Maholi - OpenStreetMap Tanzania Emmor Nile - OpenStreetMap Ethiopia Douglas Ssebaggala - OpenStreetMap Uganda Willy Franck - OpenStreetMap Cameroun Marc Mashawe - OpenStreetMap DRC Cristiano Giovando - Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Paul Uithol - Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team

Most of the above people are members of OpenStreetMap Africa a network of OpenStreetMap Communities in Africa are the organisers of State of the Map Africa. Our major objective is to Map each and every corner of Africa. The conference is just one of the ways we set forward to achieve this, so between now and the next conference our work is revolving around supporting each other, sharing resources and experiences. Joining hands to grow strong OSM Communities all over the continent.

In case you missed the one this year, watch out for the next State of the Map Africa and we invite you to help us plan the next one when the time comes.

Webale, Thank you!

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